Australian racing and breeding's biggest hitters have put aside their rivalries on the track to help launch a new scheme aimed to address critical staff shortages which threaten to cripple the industry.
Winx's trainer Chris Waller heads a who's who of racing identities including Hall of Famers Gai Waterhouse and David Hayes in supporting the not-for-profit Thoroughbred Industry Careers, aimed at safeguarding the billion-dollar industry.
Leading figures have described employment levels as reaching a "super critical" juncture as the industry struggles to find a way of luring the next generation of workers.
Waller, Waterhouse and Hayes will join Sheikh Mohammed's global breeding and racing giant Godolphin, Tony McEvoy, Arrowfield Stud and the Australian Turf Club in backing the project, which will create a one-stop shop website for racing industry employment.
It will be officially launched on Thursday.
"It is unprecedented to have so many key identities working together to promote the unique and
exciting opportunities available in the thoroughbred breeding and racing industry," Waterhouse said.
"Were all so passionate about what we do and through Thoroughbred Industry Careers we want to
shine a spotlight on the diversity of options available to young people and the pathways to access
Australia's thoroughbred racing and breeding industry employs 75,000 people in full-time positions with the Department of Employment forecasting a 6.6 per cent employment growth for the industry in the next five years.
Despite racing jurisdictions around the country boasting record prize money levels, many trainers have bemoaned their inability to hire young people for entry-level positions.
"Its super critical," McEvoy said of the new scheme. "We just cannot physically find the people to do the work. There are some individuals that are really pushing to help the issue.
"I think the industry as a whole has been far too slow to respond to this. Theres been noise made for some time, but its been unheard. Now everyone is realising how serious it is and I can see some really good initiatives being taken to take this forward."
We just cannot physically find the people to do the work
A key plank of the Thoroughbred Industry Careers initiative will be a 12-month stud and stable horse mentorship program including two paid work experience placements. The first intake of 40 students will be next year.
"I have never been more confident about the future of Australian racing and breeding, but our capacity for growth is threatened by diminishing numbers of people to fill the many roles within the industry," Arrowfield supremo John Messara said.
"We can offer not only excellent career options, but also a lifestyle connected with the land, an
extraordinary animal, a vibrant global community and an incredibly exciting sport."
Added Godolphin Australia managing director Vin Cox: "To sustain our industrys future, we must invest in the education of the next generation. This investment extends beyond our industry and the establishment of this organisation will provide industry-related youth career opportunities and development."
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.